RESOLUTION ON “DRUG-FREE ZONES”
This resolution supports reforming “Drug-Free Zone” laws. Many Drug-Free Zone laws establish mandatory sentences and enhanced penalties for drug crimes committed within certain areas designated by statute. These areas often extend 1,000 feet or more – up to three miles – beyond the real property of schools, parks, and other public property, and can overlap to nearly cover entire cities. Most Drug-Free Zone laws were established decades ago, but have not been reformed despite evidence that Drug-Free Zones are arbitrary and often unnecessarily broad, are ineffective at deterring drug-related crime, and create significant unintended consequences, including unwarranted disparate impacts on minority defendants. Reforming Drug-Free Zone laws – by, for instance, reducing their number and size, and eliminating mandatory penalties associated with them – will ensure Drug-Free Zone laws function according to their intended purposes, and are consistent with available evidence.
WHEREAS, the American Legislative Exchange Council is committed to developing evidence-based criminal justice policies that hold offenders accountable and protect the public from illegal drugs; and
WHEREAS, many state Drug-Free Zone laws were passed decades ago and have not been reviewed or updated in response to evidence about their effectiveness or unintended consequences; and
WHEREAS, states that have studied Drug-Free Zones have been unable to identify any empirical basis for their size or scope; and
WHEREAS, Drug-Free Zones now cover entire urban areas, and can nearly cover entire cities; and
WHEREAS, Drug-Free Zones create unwarranted disparities in sentences for similar criminal activity; and
WHEREAS, Drug-Free Zones create disproportionate sentencing impacts on minority defendants; and
WHEREAS, studies of Drug-Free Zone laws have found such laws do not deter drug crimes; and
WHEREAS, Non-Drug-Free Zone-related criminal penalties for drug-related offenses are sufficient to ensure appropriate punishment for offenders; and
WHEREAS, several states have already reformed Drug-Free Zone laws, including by reducing the number of Drug-Free Zones and the size of such zones, and eliminating mandatory penalties and enhancements for violations committed in such zones, and have not seen increased drug activity as a result,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that states should review and reform Drug-Free Zone statutes, taking into consideration evidence related to the appropriate number of Drug-Free Zones, the size of such zones, their effectiveness, and their disparate impact on minority defendants.